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Meet Michael Hamilton, Creator of “In My Back Yard DC”

by Borderstan.com February 6, 2013 at 10:00 am 0

From Rachel Nania. Check out her blog, Sear, Simmer & Stir. Follow Nania on Twitter @rnania, email her at rachel[AT]borderstan.com.

"Hamilton"

Michael Hamilton. (Courtesy Michael Hamilton)

In January, a group of residents in two small community associations proposed a liquor license moratorium zone for the 14th and U Street NW corridor — an initiative that started a new chapter in an ongoing debate amongst local businesses and those residents in favor of further development.

In the moratorium, the Shaw Dupont Citizens Alliance (SDCA) and the Residential Action Coalition (RAC) request a circular zone be established that extends 1,800 feet (about 1/3 of a mile) from 1211 U Street NW — the location of Ben’s Next Door and adjacent to the iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl restaurant.

At the end of the January, we published an article about a locally-run website that popped-up in response to the proposed moratorium, called In My Back Yard DC (IMBY). We recently chatted with the man behind the website to hear about his motive for establishing the site, as well as his plans for the future of the platform.

Michael Hamilton moved to DC about two-and-a-half years ago and currently lives in Columbia Heights. He works in an administrative position at a 501(c)(3) downtown, which he assures us is not at all related to the alcohol, restaurant or development industry.

Hamilton officially launched his website on January 24 and currently has 480 members. He says he launched his site after reading the initial moratorium post on Borderstan.

“I bought the domain and created the site that day,” Hamilton said. “I didn’t plan to publicize it very much until I had recruited a hundred members and selected a few people to join me in leadership positions. However, people discovered the site and it started attracting attention from bloggers.”

Hamilton says he established IMBY because he believes that allowing development in the District is important in keeping the city affordable and exciting.

“DC is growing quickly right now, so what gets built and where (it’s built) will affect the city and region for the long term,” Hamilton said. “If the NIMBYs have their way, DC will become increasingly expensive as the population rises faster than the housing stock. If we go down a different route, and allow home builders and entrepreneurs to meet consumer needs, we can have a District that’s both more affordable and more interesting.”

However, Hamilton is sensitive to ideals behind the residents who do not want to see more development in the neighborhood and in the city, in general. He acknowledges that they have a lot at stake as new restaurants, bars and development communities are built around them.

Hamilton says his next move is to select people for the IMBY executive board.

“My goal in the short term is to use the site to coordinate an effort to fight the proposed liquor license moratorium for U Street. In the longer term, I plan to use the site as a place to write about development and land use regulations, and to comment on issues affecting IMBYdc members,” he said. “We will also speak at hearings and file petitions with various government entities involved in the entitlement  and licensing processes.”

“I’d like District lawmakers to acknowledge that while the NIMBYs may be vocal, they don’t speak for the entire community. As the overwhelming response to IMBYdc demonstrates, there are a lot of people who are happy when they have more options for to choose from. A good first step would be not approving the liquor license moratorium for U Street.”

According to Hamilton, those who sign-up for the newsletters, offered on his website, can expect to read the latest news on the issue. Hamilton says he will also use the newsletters to coordinate new projects.

“For example, if there’s a new building going up I will recruit members who live in that ANC for their perspective and work with them to file petitions and make statements at hearings,” he said.

Originally, IMBY started as an anonymous site. However, that is no longer the case. Hamilton recently published his full name on the site, and, of course, is now talking to the media.

For the time being, Hamilton is running the site by himself. Once all the leadership positions for the initiative fill-up, he hopes to have some additional help with expanding the  site.

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